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Reviews: Verdi: Falstaff - Sir Colin Davis

Reviews: 2

Review by Chris November 15, 2004 (14 of 14 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Finally there is a,pure DSD, recorded opera on SACD.And not any old opera ! But one of the greatest operas of all time, composed by one the greatest opera composers ever.This Falstaff masterfully conducted by Colin Davis and recorded live during performances in the Barbican earlier this year,has been talked about a lot.For very good reasons I realize now.
And much as I envy those lucky enough to have been there during these performances,I'm happy to be able to to hear this fantastic performance over and over again in "sensational sound quality".(I'm quoting from the booklet here.)
And, provided you can accept, the rather close recording and dry acoustics of the Barbican and the occasional grunt from Colin Davis,this is in many ways a recording to rival the Mercury Firebird in its fantastic realism.(And to be quite honest the LSO is a better orchestra today.)
String sound is both sweet,velvety and completely natural and realistic and although closely recorded, the voices are so realistic as to make you believe they are performing right there in front of you.
Every section of the orchestra is heard clearly and the dynamic range is huge!!! There's both body, depth and coherence captured here. The Barbican is not an ideal venue for grand opera and there could have been a bit more ambience captured.
But the results are still so incredibly good that I will find it a bit difficult to go back to my old reference, the mid-fifties Karajan Philarmonia LP set or even the 70s Giulini set again.
Karajan had both Tito Gobbi and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Giulini had Renato Brusson and the young and pure Barbara Hendricks as Nanetta.
I must confess that Colin Davis's singers are mostly new to me.But both Michele Pertusi as Falstaff and Ana Ibarra as Mrs Ford are convincing in their roles.Pertusi for example does both "Quand'ero paggio... and "Va vecchio John" wonderfully. And Bulent Bezduz together with Maria Jose´ Moreno sound equally right as the young lovers."Bocca baciata non perde ventura... has all the right longing,and Nanetta's response "Anzi rinnova come fa la luna" may not be quite as sweet as Hendrick's, but still made me replay it three times, just to revel in its beauty.
There are many more wonderful things to enjoy here, and the final fugue "Tutto nel mondo è burla.."
is so contagious in its obvious joy, as to make it difficult not to sing along.
All in all, a Falstaff to love and cherish!

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Review by peteyspambucket September 27, 2005 (11 of 11 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I've had this set for almost a year at this point, and I've listened to it several times with very positive results each time. I'm listening to it again because I'll be seeing this opera a few times at the MET over the next month, and my interest was renewed.

The strength of this performance is in its live atmosphere and the superb open-throated singing from the soloists and the incredible playing from the orchestra. The tempi are really excellent, and allow for the emergence of all those gorgeous late-Verdi touches that are so prominent in pieces like Otello, the Requiem, Aida, and the revised Simon Boccanegra.

This is a Falstaff to cherish. Pertusi gives a very exciting and idiomatic performance that is also extremely well-sung. It's common to find that it can be a bit hammed up so that the musical line is distorted. (Even the performances I just enjoyed at the MET from Terfel featured a brilliantly musically re-imagined portrayal that is simply irresistable, improving greatly upon his run here 2 years ago.) The other main roles are performed with plenty of character and energy. Aside from Pertusi and Alvarez (an impassioned Fenton sounding at times like a young Carreras), one might wish for a little more star quality here or there, but ultimately what was assembled here really WORKS, and the energy is contagious.

The orchestra sounds amazing, and is responsive to everything. From the quietest scenes to the most bombastic, from the smallest trill in the strings or the winds to the giant brass outbursts, the orchestra shines -- and in surround, you will experience a very pleasing enveloping quality. The bass drum is recorded really clearly, and it is so palpable and realistic, it feels like the drum is in your room.

Sonically, the big story is the dynamic range. I am consistently able to set the volume at one level, and do not have to adjust at all. Everything was just natural, and the sound is very close and satisfying. In much of the performance, you will hear Sir Davis' humming, and it is quite annoying at some points, especially in Act 1 and during Fenton's Act 3 aria, etc. The strings "en masse" have a richness that I don't recall from any other LSO recording and the effect is breathtakingly gorgeous. I did an A-B with the Sibeius 3&7 (and as a result, I think I found an editing error), and the Falstaff is decidedly better, the former featuring too much bass and not enough transparency as can be heard in the Falstaff. Vocals are recorded very richly, and the sound is so good that you can actually tell how everyone is spread out among the stage in certain ensembles. A brilliant effect.

I'm so thrilled to have this recording, and I'll be returning to this often. If this were merely a RBCD, this performance alone would still have been really special to me, but that it's also in technicolor SACD sound is an added bonus. For anyone interested in this piece, this would be a very nice introductory recording. I'm hoping the recording team took copious notes so that they can re-create this magic on future LSO recordings!

Note: Applause at the end of each act has been preserved. Some scene changes have applause as well, but the scene change in Act 3 does NOT have applause. There are several parts where you can hear the audience laugh at something funny going on, and that also adds to the live aspect of this set.

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